After playing 37 straight road games to start the season, the Wisconsin softball team is now in the middle of its longest home stand which continues this weekend with a three game series against Ohio State.
Wisconsin (30-9, 7-5 Big Ten) takes on a red hot Ohio State team (26-14, 6-6 Big Ten) that is currently riding a five-game winning streak which includes a three-game series sweep of conference opponent Penn State.
The weekend series with the Buckeyes marks the Badgers’ first chance to defend their home field against a conference opponent.
“It’s really important just because we really haven’t been playing at home and it’s big to come out and protect your home field,” Wisconsin senior first baseman Shannel Blackshear said. “Being a team that’s been on the road, we understand how big of a deal it is for another to come in and beat you at home and every series is important anyway. So, just going out and getting wins against them is going to be huge.”
Ohio State brings a high-powered offense to Madison that has brought 32 runners around to home plate during its five-game winning streak and has outscored opponents by 19 runs in that stretch.
The OSU attack is led by sophomore outfielder Taylor Watkins who leads her team in batting average, hits, runs scored and stolen bases.
Ohio State’s junior first baseman Leesa Gresham adds the punch to the Buckeyes’ lineup with nine homeruns, 13 doubles and 34 RBIs on the season.
The Ohio State batters will also have their hands full with a Wisconsin pitching staff that continues to put up strong outings on the arms of junior Cassandra Darrah and senior Meghan McIntosh who both sport an ERA under two.
Darrah came up with a win in Wisconsin’s second game in its home opening double header against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Tuesday. McIntosh gave a very strong effort, giving up just two runs, in UW’s first game, but the Wisconsin bats were unable to reward the senior pitcher, giving her no run support in a one-run loss.
The Wisconsin hitters will look to get back on track this weekend, after averaging just over one run a game in their last six games.
“I think we’re just looking to put the ball in play more when it counts,” Blackshear said. “We haven’t been getting the key hits like we normally do in the past couple of weeks and I think that’s really shown. So, I think a big deal is going to be us putting the ball in play hard and scoring some runs.”
The Wisconsin bats showed some signs of life in the second game of the Tuesday double header, putting four runs on the board including a two-run home run from senior utility player Whitney Massey.
Wisconsin is excited for its first opportunity to lace up for a weekend series at Goodman Diamond and is hoping to get the support from a big home crowd in a big conference matchup.
“It’s huge. It’s nice to be home finally and we haven’t had a Big Ten game at home,” Darrah said. “So hopefully we’ll have a lot of fans come out and support us.”